Optimizing Buffers in your Calendar

By Andy Mowat | Updated: 31 Jul, 2012

Most executives subconsciously schedule buffers before and after appointments in order to:

  • Avoid a day of cascading cancelations or late meetings
  • Ensure you spend time with the most valuable people
  • Convey respect towards your contacts
  • Reserve time for critical office check-ins, meeting follow up, and strategy time

However, when working with an assistant who is scheduling on your behalf, explicit buffering becomes crucial to the process.

As we integrate assistants with executives, we have developed several buffering best practices to ensure a successful schedule:


Buffer before and after meetings

Empower your assistant to leave extra travel and preparation time before meetings so you walk unaffected and calm into the meeting, accomplishing everything you meant to.

Buffers also should cushion your calendar for meetings or calls that run longer than anticipated. This time doubles as an opportunity to follow up with the contact via email, or send over those documents you mentioned, without feeling stressed about making another meeting right after the call.

Start with standardized buffering rules to reduce schedule confusion for your assistant

Have your assistant use 30-minute buffers surrounding all calls, and 1 hour with in-person meetings. Then, adjust as necessary. Be sure these buffers are placed when initially scheduling and NOT the day of the meeting, otherwise your calendar will become too cluttered to accommodate them at all.

Factor in transit time

This is especially important to convey with a remote assistant. We train our PAs to use the same tools your in-office assistant might use were s/he planning a meeting for your trip to another metro area. They learn resources like 511, which people in the Bay Area dial to get near real-time update on traffic conditions, and Google maps, which now lists transportation time for both foot and auto traffic.

Factor in the value of a contact

You should offer your assistant a resource to reference the value of a contact so extra buffering time can be allocated, accordingly.

Make your scheduled buffer time valuable

The only downside to preventative buffering is that it takes time from your schedule—so make it valuable. For example, your assistant can use your CRM to keep a list of people with whom you need to follow up or get in touch. Use transit time to work this list.

Primarily, buffers are used as insurance. We’ve all experienced buffering done poorly—think about the waiting room at your doctor’s office. By adding buffers into scheduling, you artfully escape the calendar “domino effect,” by which one meeting gone overtime topples plans through the rest of your day.